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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

Belonging - A memoir
by
Renée Goossens

ABC Books
272 pages
Paperback
ISBN 0-7333-1244-6

 

Across nineteen chapters and 272 pages Renée Goossens, the youngest daughter of the composer and conductor Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) recounts her life story.

Renée is the daughter of Goossens' second marriage. The first marriage was to Dorothy Millar known as 'Boonie'. The children of that marriage were Anne, Julia and Jane. After a divorce Eugene married Renée's mother, Janet Lewis. That marriage also ended and Eugene then married Marjorie Foulkrod.

I do not want to steal the book's thunder but here are a few of the musical and other milestones.

The book opens during Goossens' tenure with the Cincinnati orchestra in the 1930s. He was there from 1931 to 1946. The family moved to Australia in 1947. Musical references abound including memories of reported Goossens' USA premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande in 1931 in Chicago. The audience did not like it. She tells of attending her father's concerts in Sydney of casual domestic cruelties and of her first and captivating visit to the opera (Meistersinger in Sydney) having had her interest captured by hearing the prelude. She also happily recalls her delight every time 'uncle' Charlie Groves called by. There was an interlude in France and the return including a brief reference to the night in 1946 when Goossens introduced Australian audiences to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

Surrounded by music she inherited a love of classical music which she has passed on to her son. She played the child extra role as a street urchin in one of her father’s Sydney productions of Boris Godunov. Then came her banishment to France to exorcise her awful Australian American accent. Communication with her father was virtually impossible. She learnt of her father's family background from biographical notes in the programmes of concerts she attended in Sydney and years later the tragedy of the pornography scandal that blighted his career was revealed to her through researching back copies of newspapers in Oxford..

Many of her formative years were spent in France. Her recollections there include remembering seeing corpses of Algerian Arabs on the streets of Paris in the 1950s. There is also a vivid anecdote about Fischer-Dieskau giving her a whole tube of cough sweets to quell the coughing that had punctuated the first part of his concert and of taking her driving exam in hair that had gone green after the wrong chemicals for colouring had been used.

Tragedies continued with a fateful car accident returning from a trip to the Cheddar Gorge. This resulted in eight months in hospital during which she learnt, over the radio, of her father's death and of her husband’s abandoning her for another woman with whom he had a child. There were joys as well including studying at long last at Westminster College in the mid-1960s struggling to balance child care with work.

This book complements Carole Rosen's ‘The Goossens - A Musical Dynasty’ (André Deutsch, 1993).

Lastly I note that this book has come to press remarkably quickly having been completed in January 2003.

Since the 1990s her car accident injuries confined her to a wheelchair and she now campaigns for enhanced mobility for those in wheelchairs in Sydney. Her next project is a book for parents on how to cope when their children suffer pain. Her own experiences will I am sure lend this planned book a luminous and caring practicality. Much of ‘Belonging’ is about pain but also about joy ... joy as an eluate out of the experience of pain.

Rob Barnett

 



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